Review: Make It Right by Megan Erickson

Make it Right (Bowler University, #2)Make it Right by Megan Erickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

After a year when I’ve declared so many romance tropes and subgenres off my reading list, only to be shown how good they can actually be, it should have been no surprise that I would find a book so wonderful that it redeems the one subgenre I’d sworn off for good: New Adult. But make no mistake, MAKE IT RIGHT by Megan Erickson is the one New Adult romance that I truly believe even those weary of that subgenre could enjoy reading.

Although MAKE IT RIGHT is the second in Megan Erickson’s Bowler University series, it works quite well as a stand-alone story. Starting the series with this second book might even provide an advantage to the new reader, since the story revolves around the redemption of a much reviled character from the first book, MAKE IT COUNT.

Max Payton is infamous among his college friends for the rotten way he treated his last girlfriend, Kat, and how before that, he’d slept with the high school girlfriend of his best friend Alec. Now that Alec and Kat are a couple, Max must content himself with the occasional nightly pickup of whatever women are still willing to throw themselves at him. But when Lea Travers shows up one night at the local convenience store where Max is slightly drunk and feeling down about his life, he realizes that this girl is someone he’d really like to be the true version of himself with, just for once.

Lea doesn’t have the long history with Max from high school like her friends do, but what she’s heard about him is all bad. Still, she sees something genuine behind the jerk facade he puts on for everyone, and as events on campus conspire to bring them together, it’s obvious that the attraction is mutual. What both she and Max eventually discover is a deeper connection that could heal the invisible wounds they both carry inside. But can it survive the mistakes they’ve both made and their unshakable assumptions about loving and being loved?

So many New Adult books make the mistake of fetishizing tragedies in their relatively young characters’ pasts, but in MAKE IT RIGHT, this is never a problem. The perfect tone is set from the start, and what makes us sympathize with the characters is constantly balanced with moments of humor that are never out of place. Max is much more than what he shows to the world, and we see his troubled home life from his point of view, even as its effect on his behavior is made all too obvious as the story unfolds. Lea, too, has endured both physical and psychological blows that would be daunting for a person twice her age. But the histories each brings to this new relationship are presented matter-of-factly, with no superimposed drama to forcibly wring the last bit of sentiment out of readers. This careful balance between lightheartedness and deep emotion is what I find missing in so many New Adult romances, and its presence here is one of the big reasons I loved Max and Lea’s story so much.

The other great feature of MAKE IT RIGHT for me was how the author always kept me guessing as to how events would play out, while always ensuring the necessary groundwork had already been laid for what would happen next. Even when I was able to predict the nature of the inevitable Big Misunderstanding, I was still surprised by the series of events it triggered, leading all the way up to Max and Lea’s happy ending, blowing away every assumption I’d had up until then. Ultimately, neither Max nor Lea should have ever trusted each other to be the person they needed, but when they took that leap of faith, I took it with them, and was rewarded with one of the best romances I’ve read this year.

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Review: Reputable Surrender by Riley Murphy

With this review, I am pleased to introduce Sharon as a new reviewer for The Romance Evangelist. Here’s her bio:

Sharon is a middle aged mom who reads every chance she gets. This has led to near disasters for her devices. Most of these near misses involve moisture due to her love of being in the water. Her favorite genres are historical, erotic, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, suspense, travel and young adult. She’ll try anything once and the weirder things twice. You can soak up more of her insanity on Twitter: @Mojitana.


Reputable Surrender (Trust in Me, #5)

Reputable Surrender by Riley Murphy
Series: Trust In Me #5
Sharon’s rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided to The Romance Evangelist by the author in exchange for an honest review.

REPUTABLE SURRENDER is the final book in the Trust In Me series. You don’t need to read the other books in the series to understand the story.

Michael and Laren unknowingly meet at a BDSM club during a masked event. Michael steps up to disentangle Laren from an aggressive Dom but discovers that she is quite capable of handling things herself. She is feisty and Michael is intrigued. Their brief time together is over quickly as Michael leaves upon discovering her identity. You see, he’s promised a friend that he’d keep his hands off Laren. Since I hadn’t read the previous books I didn’t quite understand what the problem was, but the author did a pretty good job of catching the reader up.

Fast forward to 8 months later and Laren is in command in the boardroom of Michael’s office. She’s still as fiery as ever and Michael just can’t help but want her all over again. Once he gets the okay from his friend, Michael then begins his pursuit of Laren.

Unfortunately for Michael, Laren has a whole host of issues. She’s got a loser brother-in-law who can’t support his family financially. He makes poor investments so she is continually bailing him out because she worries for her sister and nephew. Her ex-boyfriend was an abusive jerk. And, finally, her ex-husband is a vanilla pushover. But Laren is bound and determined to prove herself in her field. She wants to move to the big city and work with her ex-husband at his company.

Enter Michael, the Reputable Dom. I’m not sure what makes him so reputable except that he is financially solvent and follows safe, sane and consensual BDSM rules. But he’s determined to tame Laren, his dragon. He is calm and patient with Laren even when she’s a mess over her family drama. He’s also ready to compromise in his own work life to be with her. But her trust will be hard for Michael to win after all her previous life disappointments.

In the end, those thought of as villains are redeemed and the true offenders are revealed. Through a series of twists and turns these two suffer and grow stronger together. Trust established and the foundation for happiness is laid.

Those who come to this book without reading the other four books in the series may feel a bit left out of the sub plots. And while I enjoyed the book, there were some turns of phrase that took me out of the world the author had crafted.

The relationship between Michael and Laren was steamy and sweet. He is a dominating man who knows that Laren needs someone to share some of her burdens. Michael is more than willing to be that man.

Although Laren was a strong, intelligent business woman, I felt she was portrayed as too much of a doormat in her personal relationships. Her sister and brother-in-law were a particular source of frustration for me as a reader. They were just terrible people. Their redemption at the end didn’t sway my opinion as to their awfulness.

The use of pet names (specifically Honey toast) that Michael used in reference to Laren began to grate on my nerves by the end of the book.

Some parts felt repetitive and uninspired. A few chapters felt over long. A couple scenes didn’t have good flow. A good editor could have solved many of these problems. Overall the book was enjoyable and I would recommend it.

Blog Tour: Hard to Hold On To by Laura Kaye

We’re pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Laura Kaye’s HARD TO HOLD ON TO, a Contemporary Romance filled with suspense and a novella in the Hard Ink Series, published by Avon Impulse (an imprint of HarperCollins).

Hard To Hold On To

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About Hard To Hold On To:

Edward “Easy” Cantrell knows better than most the pain of not being able to save those he loves—which is why he is not going to let Jenna Dean out of his sight. He may have just met her, but Jenna’s the first person to make him feel alive since that devastating day in the desert more than a year ago.

Jenna has never met anyone like Easy. She can’t describe how he makes her feel–and not just because he saved her life. No, the stirrings inside her reach far beyond gratitude.

As the pair are thrust together while chaos reigns around them, they both know one thing: the things in life most worth having are the hardest to hold on to.

Hard to Hold On To on Goodreads

EXCERPT:

Easy tugged down the covers and gestured for Jenna to get in. She chose the side that would allow her to lie on the uninjured side of her face.

“After what you’ve been through, I don’t want to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable,” Easy said.

Propping herself on an elbow, Jenna shook her head. “You won’t. You’re the—” She blanched as if she hadn’t meant to say whatever she’d nearly said.

Which made Easy need to know. He crawled on the bed as if lured by the words. “Finish. That. Sentence.”

She eased back onto the pillow, red hair sprawling around her shoulders like silk, and stared up at him. And it took everything Easy had not to settle himself on top of her and tease the words out with his hands and tongue.

“The only one who makes me feel safe,” she whispered.

Satisfaction humming through him, Easy turned and stretched out on his back. Because if he kept looking at her while she was looking at him like that, he might not be able to restrain himself from having what he wanted. A taste. A chance.

None of which she was in any shape for. And given the shitstorm in his head, probably neither was he.

“Good. That’s good,” he murmured, blowing out a long breath. Damn, he was tired. Not just because he hadn’t slept much the night before. But because of the size of the load he’d been shouldering for the past twelve-plus months. If he could only figure out how to put it down. He scrubbed his hands over his face, wishing he could shake himself out of this fucking slump.

If Rimes were here, he’d kick Easy’s ass for being such a morose motherfucker.

But he wasn’t here. Which was the damn problem in a nutshell.

He dropped his arms to the bed and peered over at Jenna.

She lay on her side facing him, hand tucked under her chin, not looking the least bit settled or relaxed.

“Whatchu need?”

“You.” She spoke the word without any hesitation, any doubt, any seeming self-consciousness.

“Have me, Jenna. Whatever you want,” he said, his cock stirring no matter how hard he reined himself in.

Holding his gaze, she moved closer until her head rested on his shoulder and her body trapped his arm between them. And, suddenly, she wasn’t fucking close enough.

“Here,” he whispered, lifting his arm and inviting her closer. And damn if his heart didn’t soar when she fitted herself the rest of the way against him, her face against his throat, her breasts against his ribs, her leg curling up onto his thigh.

He wasn’t sure whose sigh was louder. All Easy knew was that this was the first time in more than a year he didn’t feel alone. Wrapping his arm around her, he couldn’t resist squeezing her in just a little closer.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her breath ticklish against his neck.

He laced his fingers between hers where they rested on his chest. “I gotchu. You just close your eyes and know I’m here.”

Did you have a favorite line? Thanks for reading!

Men of Hard Ink

Other Books in the Hard Ink Series:

Hard As It Gets

Hard As You Can

Hard to Come By (11/25/14)

Hard to Be Good (3/10/15)

Untitled (7/28/15)

Praise for the Hard Ink Series:

For Hard As You Can:

“TOP PICK! There is a sinister and desperate edge to this tale that will keep readers glued to their seats. Kaye has dark romantic suspense nailed!” ~ RT Book Reviews Magazine

“Hard As You Can is another five star read. The characters Ms. Kaye has created are wonderfully broken and the drama is gritty, but the burgeoning romance and the tight-knitted relationship of the team leaves you with a sense of redemption. A must read series!” ~San Francisco Book Review

For Hard As It Gets:

“Edgy, sexy and full of suspense! A great read from a great new author!” ~ #1 NYT Bestselling Author J.R. Ward

“Sizzling romance… The intriguing tattoo parlor and military background will appeal to fans of Suzanne Brockmann and Lindsay McKenna.” ~Publishers Weekly Review

“Kaye’s depiction of sexual tension and her sex scenes are masterful and this will appeal to fans of Maya Banks’ KGI and Julia Ann Walker’s Black Knight’s series.” ~Booklist

Author PhotoAbout Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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Review: Hard To Hold On To by Laura Kaye

Hard to Hold on To (Hard Ink, #2.5)Hard to Hold on To by Laura Kaye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

HARD TO HOLD ON TO continues the story of a group of men once proud to be a part of their country’s Special Forces who were forced out under a cloud of suspicion thanks to betrayal by their own company commander. Now they are trying to clear their names while under siege by a powerful street gang determined to stop their efforts and silence them for good. Each installment in this HARD INK series advances the overall story arc while providing a romance and HEA for each member of the group. And although this particular story is much shorter than those which have preceded it, Easy and Jenna’s romance still packs an emotional punch as they discover both love and solace within each other’s arms.

Easy may have been Edward Cantrell’s nickname, but his life so far had been anything but that. The Army helped him escape the mean streets of his childhood, but when that was taken away from him the hard way, all he had left was the Ravens motorcycle club and survivor’s guilt bordering on suicidal. When he helped rescue Sara’s sister Jenna from where the Church gang had held her prisoner, he never expected it to mean more to him than helping out the woman of his good friend, Shane. But now that Jenna needs him, Easy might finally have a reason to live again, and find the love he never thought he’d deserve.

Jenna had grown up mostly ignorant of all the terrible sacrifices her sister Sara had made to keep her healthy and safe. But after being held in the same awful place where her sister had been tortured after their father’s death, Jenna isn’t taking anything for granted, especially where it concerns the man she credits for her rescue. Maybe she and Easy aren’t the most likely couple to succeed, but after her near-death experience, Jenna realizes that life’s too short not to take a chance on love.

HARD TO HOLD ON TO upholds the great precedent of the HARD INK series with another well-written romance under pressure, made believable in spite of the otherwise implausible time constraints and reliance on an insta-lust trope. In HARD AS YOU CAN, we saw Jenna learn just how awful her sister’s life had been while she herself had only had to worry about finishing college and keeping her epilepsy under control. So when Jenna turns to Easy for support in the aftermath of her rescue, it makes a strange sort of sense in that Jenna feels like she’s already been too much of a burden for Sara. What nobody counted on, however, was the spectacular sexual chemistry between Jenna and Easy, least of all themselves. And while insta-lust may not be the best reason to pull back from the cliff of self-destruction, Laura Kaye made it work for me, with some scenes so heart-wrenching that I would have allowed the characters anything they wanted just to see them happy again.

As much as I always want more of something good, HARD TO HOLD ON TO works well at novella length, whetting my appetite even more for the next full-length HARD INK story to come. It’s a must-read in the series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Review: Committed by Sidney Bristol

Committed: Drug of DesireCommitted: Drug of Desire by Sidney Bristol

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

COMMITTED is the first book in Sidney Bristol’s new Loveswept romance series featuring couples who find love at a private BDSM retreat known as House Surrender. This first book pairs up an obsessed DEA agent looking to bring down a dangerous drug kingpin and a high school librarian still learning to be a fully independent adult after being raised in a closely guarded commune where her immediate family still lives without her.

When Damien Moana first spots Poppy Mercer musing over a romance novel while sprawled invitingly across a sofa in the House Surrender library, it’s all he can do not to immediately make her his, even after she informs him she’s a switch, not a submissive. After they engage in a BDSM scene more intense that either has ever experienced, Damien receives a message about a new chance to capture an elusive drug lord, and chooses his quest over Poppy, leaving her angry and vowing to forget him and that night. But Damien can’t forget Poppy, tracking her down only a few weeks later and eventually convincing her to continue exploring their mutual attraction in a Dominant/submissive relationship. What follows in COMMITTED is a passionate romance between two people who must prevail over the external forces conspiring to keep them apart, not the least of which is a sociopathic criminal bent on revenge against the man he blames for the death of his wife.

Damien and Poppy were what I loved the most about COMMITTED, and every moment they were together, both in and out of the bedroom, was when I was completely happy with the story. Their sexual chemistry is both compelling and convincing, and it never wavered for me even when Poppy was finally able to turn the tables and exercise her switch option on Damien in public. I would have been blissfully happy if the book focused entirely on their romance without the added distraction of the menacing drug lord and Poppy’s severely misguided hippie mother, but that’s not what was meant to be.

For COMMITTED is a romantic suspense story with a significant amount of the plot devoted to the object of Damien’s relentless pursuit lurking around every corner, and every scene foreshadowing his inevitable attempt to get to Damien through Poppy kept drawing my attention away from the romance. I understand the need to show exactly why Damien had been so intent on getting the evil drug lord off the streets for good. I also acknowledge that being resentful of anything not related to the actual romance is a problem I have with romantic suspense not necessarily shared by other readers. But the constant focus on the evil drug lord affected my enjoyment of COMMITTED to the point that I began skimming through any scenes not directly related to the romance. Then when the peril did find Poppy as predicted, what happened next seemed so drawn out to me that I wondered when we’d ever get to their happy ending. As a fan of epilogues, I was pleased to have one here, although it was somewhat jarring to have Poppy’s months of recovery only referred to in passing when we’d previously had to see her suffer in such exacting detail. But after all they’d both been through, it was gratifying to see Poppy and Damien come out whole on the other side, and it was their romantic journey that made COMMITTED work for me.

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Release Day: Committed by Sidney Bristol

COMMITTED by Sidney Bristol

COMMITTED: Drug of Desire
Written by Sidney Bristol
Published by Loveswept
August 12, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-553-39252-4

COMMITTED on Goodreads

In this erotic tale of sensuality and suspense, Sidney Bristol proves that desire can be the most dangerous drug of all.

DEA Special Agent Damien Moana works hard and plays even harder. But while indulging in forbidden temptations at a private BDSM retreat, the unexpected happens: He falls under a stranger’s spell. This woman drives Damien to distraction, pushing him to the sweet boundary between pain and pleasure. When duty interrupts their heated encounter, his focus turns to catching a criminal . . . but his head is still with the seductress who ignites his deepest desires. Now Damien must choose between closing the case of his career and losing the woman of his dreams.

Poppy Mercer can’t forget the night she spent with her mystery lover. When chance brings them back together, she seizes the opportunity to again feel his masterful hands on her body. Poppy is a switch who delights in dominating a powerful man . . . and submitting to the ecstasy of his control. Outside the bedroom, however, she questions her place in Damien’s world. His obsession with hunting a ruthless drug lord puts Poppy in the line of fire. And though Damien might be able to save her from danger, salvaging what’s left of her trust is another matter.

Committed is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences.

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Sidney Bristol

About Sidney Bristol

It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a “normal” life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict, and she grew up in a motor-home on the U.S. highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves and writing, reading, and belly dancing.

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Review: Hillbilly Rockstar by Lorelei James

Hillbilly Rockstar (Blacktop Cowboys, #6)Hillbilly Rockstar by Lorelei James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.

Although I’m a big fan of Lorelei James’s McKay books, my heart will always belong to her Blacktop Cowboys, and HILLBILLY ROCKSTAR, the latest entry in the series, reminds me exactly why they are among my very favorites.

We’ve already met our hero and heroine in previous stories, but even if this is your first visit to the friends and family in Muddy Gap, you’ll have no trouble diving in to this wonderful romance. Both Devin McClain and Liberty Masterson hail from the same small town in Wyoming, but had never crossed paths until the day she was assigned to be his personal bodyguard. Now he’s got to let this frustrating bossy woman in every aspect of his life while continuing to entertain people all over the country one night at a time. Liberty’s still adjusting to civilian life after multiple tours in Afghanistan, and it’s only by keeping men at arm’s length that she’s been able to deal with the loss of the only man she’d let herself care about. Being around the deliciously attractive Devin every waking moment is wearing her down, and the last thing she needs is to let this man distract her from her duty. But when they finally succumb to their mutual attraction, it’s only a matter of time before a moment of weakness could put both their hearts and lives in danger.

One of the things I love the most about Lorelei James’s Blacktop Cowboys series is how people you only meet briefly in previous books can still be memorable enough to rate a story of their own later in the series. Both Devin and Liberty have been in the background here and there, but they come into their own beautifully in HILLBILLY ROCKSTAR. We knew Devin’s success as a rich and famous singer hadn’t changed how he behaved around his childhood friends in Muddy Gap, but that it had kept him from letting any woman get close enough to see the true man inside. That duality is all the more poignant here when we see how the loss of his younger sister had affected his relationship with his family and hindered his ability to love anyone else. But Liberty had just as much trouble trusting and loving for similar reasons after she saw how easy it was to lose a loved one in a war zone. So it was no surprise that it took the forced proximity of living on Devin’s tour bus and her task of keeping him safe before she could let herself give in to the irresistible sexual chemistry they shared. Yet what neither of them could know at that moment was that they had just each found the one person who could save them from their self-imposed solitude forever.

The best part of HILLBILLY ROCKSTAR was how we got to see both Devin and Liberty learn to let love back in, and that the choice they’d each made to keep their hearts safe was the last thing the people they’d lost would have ever wanted for them. There were several times where each had their tenuous hold on this new love tested, and each time they came back to try again was another mini-victory that made me cheer. Even the subplot of the possible threats against Devin’s life which had brought them together was kept at just the right level of suspense so that it worked to move the romance forward instead of forcing it into the background. By the time the tour is over and the threat neutralized, we know that Liberty and Devin will have to be together for the rest of their lives, even if it takes them a little more time to figure it out. And that’s when we get yet another perfectly orchestrated happy ending for two people that deserve every bit of it. HILLBILLY ROCKSTAR not only let me visit Muddy Gap for another sensuous and sentimental romance, it reminded me that you should never give up on love, and that’s just one of the many reasons why it’s among the best romances I’ve read in 2014.

Ratings:

Overall: 5
Sensuality level: 3.5

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Review: Taking It All by Maya Banks

Taking it All (Surrender Trilogy, #3)Taking it All by Maya Banks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.

This book contains spoilers for LETTING GO and GIVING IN, the first two books in the Surrender trilogy. You might be able to read TAKING IT ALL as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Finally, after all the buildup in the first two Surrender trilogy books, we get Chessy and Tate’s story here in TAKING IT ALL. After Carson Breckenridge died too soon in a tragic car accident, it was more than a year before both his widow Josslyn and his sister Kylie were able to find love and happiness with the two men who were already present in their lives. Now that all their good friends are settled and happy, it’s the already-married Tate and Chessy who are forced to confront their own growing isolation from each other, one that threatens to end their marriage if something isn’t done soon.

Tate and Chessy had always been one of the golden couples in their immediate group of friends and family, even as everyone was still in mourning for the loss of Carson. But Tate has been spending too many nights and weekends trying to build up his business and it’s Chessy who has paid the price. She’s put on a brave face for him and everyone else, not wanting to seem ungrateful for all his hard work even as she dies a little more inside each day. It’s only when they make arrangements for a rare night out alone together to celebrate their wedding anniversary that everything comes to a head. When Chessy spells out to Tate exactly why she is so angry with him, he seems to get the message and immediately starts trying to mend the breach before it becomes irreparable. Yet it will still take one more mind-boggling mistake on Tate’s part before he realizes exactly how much he’s failed Chessy, and what he must to do prove himself worthy as both her husband and Dominant once more.

TAKING IT ALL was the perfect mix of nearly everything I love: marriage in trouble, a D/s couple in love, and the steady hand of Maya Banks to make sure it all played out exactly as it should. Add to that another appearance of Damon Roche, my all-time favorite Maya Banks character, and it’s no surprise that I loved this book so much. Chessy suffered silently for much too long, hoping every day that the man to whom she had given her love and submission would come to his senses and return to her. Tate was genuinely clueless about how much he’d been hurting his wife as he believed he was helping them both by devoting every waking hour to running his company. Even when their initial showdown appeared to have set things right, it was clear that their reconciliation was a tenuous one, and I was just as worried as Chessy that Tate could slip up again. When he did so at the absolutely worst possible moment, I knew that a hero screw-up of this magnitude demanded an equally epic hero grovel, and Maya Banks did not disappoint. This realistic portrayal of a loving D/s couple’s painful falling out and hard-won reconciliation was the heart and soul of TAKING IT ALL, and it’s what made this final book in the uniformly excellent Surrender trilogy the very best one of them all.

Ratings:

Overall: 5
Sensuality level: 4

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Review: Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl

Looking for TroubleLooking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Alex Bishop spent too much of his life in a nightmare that started the day his no-good father ran off with a neighbor lady, never to return. Alex’s mother was already in a precarious mental state, but being abandoned by her husband pushed her over that ragged edge into something close to full-blown madness. After finally finishing school even as his mother would attempt to drag him and his brother around on wild hunts for their missing father, Alex moved away and planned to stay gone for good. But when his brother contacted him about the discovery of his missing father’s body, Alex knew he had to come back to town just one more time before he could shake the dust of Jackson Hole, Wyoming off his boots forever.

Sophie Heyer has lived most of her life in a nightmare that started the day her no-good mother ran off with Alex Bishop’s father, leaving a husband and two children in a town that would never let the scandal completely die away. It took years for Sophie to trust that her stepfather would never kick her out, but even now she still tries to do everything for him and her brother in a never-ending attempt to prove herself worthy of their love. Now Alex’s mother has resurrected the years-old gossip with a misguided attempt at a memorial service for her late husband, making Sophie’s life a fresh hell to bear. But when the woman who won’t leave falls for the man who can’t stay, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether scorching sexual chemistry between a couple who should never have met can turn into something more.

This was my first visit to Victoria Dahl’s small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but after LOOKING FOR TROUBLE it won’t be the last. So many small town romances focus only on idyllic and charming features of that genre, but as we see here, a small town also has a long memory, especially when its citizens behave in highly inappropriate ways. Alex and Sophie were both deeply damaged by the behavior of their respective parents, but they reacted in completely opposite ways. Yet what we see in LOOKING FOR TROUBLE is that when two people really love each other, they also try to be honest with each other, especially when they see the person they love making a huge mistake. It was just as bad for Sophie to ignore her own desires for a life away from Jackson Hole as it was for Alex to ignore his family’s need for him to visit and be a part of their lives. When Alex and Sophie first met, it was sex they had in common. And even though it was amazing mind-blowing sex, both of them still needed to grow up before they could even consider seeing each other again, let alone plan a possible future together. Their slow but convincing character growth is the core of a rather interesting story about old scandals and new beginnings. That’s what made LOOKING FOR TROUBLE both an entertaining and touching romance for me, and it’s why I’ll be going back to read Victoria Dahl’s other books in the Jackson Hole world as well.

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Review: One Sexy Ride by Vivian Arend

One Sexy Ride (Thompson & Sons, #2)One Sexy Ride by Vivian Arend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

ONE SEXY RIDE is the second story in Vivian Arend’s new Thompson & Sons series, and it’s set in the same world as her previous Rocky Mountain series, but you don’t have to have read any of the previous books to be able to enjoy what’s here.

Janey has spent most of her life up until now pining after Len Thompson, all to no avail. He’s always been around her, being her good friend, but nothing more. What Janey really wants is that one true love to settle down with and raise a family, and she’s been convinced that Len is that guy. But what she’s never known is that even though he does secretly love her, that love is also why he’s continued to keep her at arm’s length. For Len has seen what happens when you lose your one true love, and he’s determined to never let that happen to him. So the last thing Len wants to do is love Janey, because losing her would be so much worse than not ever having her in the first place.

Tired of putting her life on hold for a guy who apparently doesn’t see in her what she sees in him, Janey has made plans to finish renovating her beloved family home, then sell it and leave town for good. Her decision to leave town, combined with a key moment when Len saves Janey from certain danger, makes him think that maybe he can at least have a taste of what he would never dare claim for good. But Janey’s heart is all in, and only time will tell if Len can move past his fear to commit to her before it’s too late.

One of the things I love about Vivian Arend’s books is her heroines and heroes are both strong and sweet. I never doubted for one minute that Len was worthy of Janey’s seemingly unrequited love, yet when he provided tangible proof of that worthiness near the very end of the story, it was all I could do not to melt in a puddle of happy tears at just how right I’d been. Len wants to love Janey – he really does! – but he’s just so terrified of being left without her that he’d rather push her away now than lose her for good later on. When Janey inevitably gets too close for comfort, the way Len tries to hasten her departure is so devastating that it demands an epic hero grovel to make things right. And let me tell you, Len’s grovel is easily one of the best I’ve read in a very long time. It isn’t just about how he shows how sorry he is, although that’s a big part of it. It’s also how he shows that he really does understand her as her own person, and how he’s been in love with her just as long as she’s been in love with him. Janey and Len’s romance is a great read all the way through, but the way they resolved their differences is what elevated ONE SEXY RIDE from merely a wonderful story to one of the best I’ve read in 2014.

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